“If it doesn’t bite, don’t bother.”
Anyone who knew me when I was a kid and witnessed one of my hysterical reactions to a large flying bug might be hard pressed to believe this, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I can’t be bothered to run, swat, kill, or even care about the moths, beetles, mosquitoes, and spiders which plague every living thing here. I’m completely outnumbered; I’d be incredibly stressed out if I allowed myself to fear them, and I’m not willing to let this stupid aversion to insects affect the only eight weeks of relaxation I foresee in the next two years. After my second night in Kathmandu I woke up in my bed in the hostel with a huge cockroach on my chest, and after my second night at Pema Choling I woke up with a giant spider (3 inches in diameter) in my bed. Every night I hear the pitter-patter of insect legs on my down sleeping bag, and if I turn on my Kindle for some late night reading I’ll have summoned in thirty seconds a collection of the region’s arthropods which only a biologist would envy. The first (and only) night I tried reading late without illuminating -in addition to my Kindle light – the bare light bulb adorning my ceiling, I was fighting a flock of moths circling my head when, to my horror, a long line of mini-cockroach-beetle-looking things emerged from a hole in the wooden shelf built into the side of my bed, climbing out quickly in an orderly fashion and then spilling onto my neatly-folded pile of clothes. I didn’t want to squash bug guts into all of my clothes and had no more energy to chase them back into their hole, and I knew deep down that any efforts to exterminate them would only result in more appearing the next morning and that a vicious cycle of frustration would ensue, so in a moment of brilliance I chose the Buddhist thing to do – accept my suffering for what it is. I closed up my Kindle, bugs and all, pushed it onto the shelf, carefully avoided poking any of the long, skinny, multi-legged insects wallowing around next to my pillow, and retreated into my sleeping bag, zipping it all the way up and pulling the drawstring really tight. I pulled the little tiny hole left at the top down to my mouth level so as to prevent suffocation, and then, curled up in the dark with only two layers of fabric to protect me from the creepy crawlies of Sherpa land, my only thought was how my dad always told me that if I wasn’t happy and wanted to change my attitude, the best way to do it is to just start smiling. And that’s how I fell asleep: happy, smiling, and even laughing a little as I rolled over a few times and felt the muted crunch of the unlucky invertebrates who interrupted my late night reading session. Every structure here is built from either stone, wood, or some combination of the two. The long building of rooms in which I live is completely made from wooden slats. When we returned from trekking last week one of the other volunteers had left, so I moved into her abandoned bed, mostly because the nun who lived above my old room had a habit of mopping her floor in the morning and the water would drip right through the slots in her wood floor that doubled as my ceiling. No more waking up to dirty rain now, but there was a trade off to be made — 14-year-old Pasang, who lives above my new room, wakes up at 5 AM to start his chanting and seems to like to stomp around a little first thing in the morning, starting the incessant shower of dust and dead bugs that assaults my bed all day. I’ve given up trying to keep anything clean, and plan on either throwing away or heavily sterilizing all garments upon my return to the modern world. Overall, though, I really have learned that it’s rather pleasant to not worry about the little things crawling all over. Plus, Cook told me that nothing in this region will kill if it bites, so there’s not even a legitimate reason to fret.